Auchincloss Event Gives Needham Voice on World Events

February 28, 2024
• U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss stood unwavering in his support for Israel and Ukraine during a virtual roundtable with Needham constituents Monday afternoon.

In his second term, Auchincloss — who represents the state’s 4th congressional district — fielded questions from local residents, some of whom challenged the congressman on his stance with Israel. He also urged for the continuation of spending in Ukraine. About 60 people attended via Zoom.

In his introductory remarks, Auchincloss highlighted the passage of a bipartisan tax package and addressed the ongoing migrant crisis, which he said “ultimately, it’s Congress’s fault” — a Senate bill that called for increased border security and strengthened immigration processes was “torpedoed” by Republican leadership, he said.

What has successfully passed through the Senate is aid to Israel and Ukraine, as well as humanitarian support for Gaza.

“This bill is critically necessary. I’m very much in favor of it and want to vote for it on the House floor,” Auchincloss said. “Unfortunately, the speaker (Rep. Mike Johnson), despite the fact that there’s a majority in favor of it in the House, has so far resisted calls to bring it to the House floor.”

Auchincloss received praise from voters for his outspoken support for Israel since the Oct. 7 attack, including from Dave Sherman, who asked the congressman to “please, please, please be consistent about that” when other political leaders criticize Israel’s response.

“I have been willing and will continue to be willing to criticize members of my own party as well as Republicans who I think are incorrect in how they are describing the situation or who are unfair or who are anti-Zionist or antisemitic in their language,” Auchincloss said, adding that President Biden has always proven himself to be an ally.

Resident Zeenat Rasheed challenged Auchincloss’s support for Israel by citing the famine millions of Palestinians currently face. United Nations officials have signaled the dire need for food and clean water in the region amid Israel’s bombing. Rasheed asked if Auchincloss believes food is a basic human right and if Israel has a responsibility to prevent starvation.

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire. I think it is an overly simplistic evaluation, though, to say that it is Israel preventing aid from coming in,” Auchincloss responded, pointing to “severe impediments.”

Rasheed interrupted to state that Israel controls some of Gaza’s borders and questioned how Israel, therefore, is not partially at fault. Auchincloss did not address Rasheed’s follow-up, instead stressing the need for a mutual ceasefire, return of hostages and demilitarization of Gaza. For a sustainable ceasefire, he added that Hamas cannot remain in power.

“Hamas cannot have any place in postwar governance in Gaza… because ultimately, if Hamas is allowed to remain in control of Gaza, it will be the Palestinian people who are eviscerated and who will suffer more than any other,” he said.

Chris Foster also pushed back on Auchincloss’s position.

“The UN defines collective punishment as a war crime, and I don’t know what else to call depriving millions of people of food, water, shelter and basic human rights something other than collective punishment,” Foster said of Israel.

Auchincloss staunchly rejected that notion, calling assertions of genocide “a gross distortion of the historical record and the context and reality of what’s happening in the Middle East right now.”

For families of Muslim and Arab descent, life post-Oct. 7 has involved bullying in school and fears of censorship, resident Anna Giraldo-Kerr said. When she asked how the community could help their diverse neighbors feel included, Auchincloss acknowledged the issues local students face, including Jewish students who are victims of harassment.

When it comes to his colleagues, Auchincloss expressed frustration over moderate House Republicans’ inability to oppose former President Trump in an election year, particularly when it comes to legislation that would support Ukraine. Trump vocally opposes sending aid to the country.

The conflict in Ukraine carries personal implications for local resident Patricia O’Meara, who has waited to adopt her 15-year-old daughter from Ukraine since the war started. O’Meara urged Auchincloss to support legislation to resume adoptions.

“We’re looking for our government to please work with the Ukrainian government to open up international adoption again,” O’Meara said. “Our kids have been sitting in orphanages in other countries for the last two years, wondering why we haven’t come to get them, why we can’t continue our adoptions.”

Auchincloss called it “one example of the human cost of this brutal, unprovoked invasion by Vladimir Putin.”

Toward the end of the roundtable, Auchincloss praised outgoing state Rep. Denise Garlick, who announced earlier this month that she would not run for reelection. He called her a “terrific partner” and “a tremendously thoughtful policymaker.”

While challenges lie ahead, Auchincloss, a self-described “history nerd,” shared his positive outlook.

“It’s impossible to not read the history of this country and to marvel at the resilience of our civil society and of our citizenry, and also to see the painful lesson that, as Winston Churchill said, politicians will exhaust every single long option here in America but ultimately end up getting it mostly right,” Auchincloss said, “and that gives me a baseline level of optimism.”

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